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I've developed a sudden desire to visit the Orango islands in Guinea-Bissau, all earnings will go towards my savings for that!

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since 06/02/2006


Italia Restaurant, Ferragudo 12/10/2016

It leaves a bad taste in the mouth

Italia Restaurant, Ferragudo Looking through my reviews, you’ll find that they are generally positive. Whether I’m just lucky or easily pleased, I’m not sure but I can’t say I’ve not had a lot of bad experiences in restaurants and hotels.. but one afternoon in the Algarve, that all changed. Food in Ferragudo I normally seem to make good choices based on ‘the feel’ I get from a place outside and more recently online reviews. Having spent the night at Vila Foia and taken my wife around the foothills where I lived during the summer as a boy, we paid a visit to Silves and then went to Ferragudo for some lunch. My mother likes Ferragudo, I’ve never particularly seen the attraction, the main square is a bit of a tourist trap and the rest is a grubby estuary village. She’s not alone in thinking its charming and my wife also thought so, so perhaps it’s just me that doesn’t like it much. I tried to find a restaurant that we frequented over a decade ago but it had since closed down and been replaced by a bar, much to my disappointment we had to make do with the restaurants in the square, which had set menus and were clearly geared towards tourists, which of course we were. First impressions Restaurants in Portugal can be hit and miss, the locals usually do a better job than the foreigners who are ‘playing’ at being restauranteurs. Being unable to make a choice and thinking they were all much of a muchness, we had been handed a leaflet earlier of an Italian restaurant which had a seafood lunch-time menu. At ...

Vila Foia, Monchique 05/10/2016

Luxury in the hills of Monchique

Vila Foia, Monchique Foia and the Monchique area is a place very close to my heart. I spent much of my youth in the Algarve and my grandmother had a piece of land in the foothills of Monchique. Monchique is in the Algarve in the South-West of Portugal and its inland by about 30km from the coast. Compared to the developed coast line, which 20 years ago was no where near as developed as it is today but still had some resorts like Praia da Rocha, Praia da Luz and Alvor , the valleys that lead up to Monchique were like jungles. Heavily pot-holed unpaved roads carved their way through rolling hills full of eucalyptus trees precariously hanging onto them. The one scar in the area was the granite quarry in Nave. I left Portugal in 2002 and did not return until this year. Initially this was because I wanted to explore other parts of the world when I went travelling or on holiday but later I was concerned that it wouldn't be the same, I'd heard of over-development and did not want to see it spoiled. My wife had long wanted to visit Portugal, especially as she had one of the best guides – me! I finally bit the bullet and bought a flight to Lisbon, rented a car and did a roadtrip. I wanted to stay in the Monchique area and it was important for me that my wife liked it as much as I had. Vila Foia looked like the perfect place from where to show the areas splendour and because it was out of season, we managed to get it for half-price – 60 euros per night, down from the usual 120 euros. Getting there If ...

Hotel Londres, Estoril 10/04/2016

A very good mid-range option in Estoril

Hotel Londres, Estoril Background I was about to get underway with my reviews from our Portugal trip last (03/16) but got distracted by a bit of Icelandic psychedelic rock! If you've been following my reviews (particularly the Nissan Note one) you'll know that I had a spot of bother when I accidentally handed over both mine and my wife's driving license to my father who had dropped us off at the airport. The day was filled with rather a lot of drama but come 5.30pm, we were safe and sound in our rental car and on the way to the Hotel Londres in Estoril. After a particularly eventful day, the first night at the Hotel Londres was extremely pleasant! Estoril Estoril is a small town on the suburbs of Lisbon that makes a good gateway to Sintra, Cascais and Cabo da Roca without having to get too tied up in Lisbon traffic. I've got pictures of me there as a one-year old and 29 years later.. it still looks similar but it's much tidier. According to my mum, we also stayed at the Hotel Londres that time round, this time I'm pleased to announce that I didn't poo in the dining area. A big part of my motivation to visit Estoril was that I couldn't really remember it but knew it well from pictures of me as a child. Estoril is chilled out and there's a nice walkway that goes in both directions - towards Cascais and Lisbon. No matter the time of the day, there is a constant flow of runners and other sporty folk. There are also at least two beaches in the vicinity but as it was March, I didn't risk having a ...

Voyage - Vintage Caravan (The) 05/04/2016

Psychedelic groovy rock from Iceland

Voyage - Vintage Caravan (The) Background A couple of days ago you might remember my review of Dead Lord, a Swedish hard rock band playing in the vain of Thin Lizzy. They recently supported The Vintage Caravan.. now while I fell immediately for Dead Lord, I'd been toying with the idea of going to see The Vintage Caravan for a while but could never decide how much I liked them. I think that part of the problem is, I kept getting them mixed up with The Spirit Caravan, a German band who had supported Pentagram back in 2014. The chances of me forgetting the band now, are quite slim.. because I found myself 10zl (£2) short for a Dead Lord T-shirt and ended up purchasing a rather psychedelic shirt with The Vintage Caravan logo splashed across it. The Vintage Caravan The Vintage Caravan are an Icelandic rock band, what they play is often described as classic rock with a hint of progressive metal.. Cream but on speed? Most tracks are quite long and definitely not the 3 minute pop tune, both guitar and bass player play catchy solos over each other on occasions and while I enjoy the blast of sound, my wife does not - she finds it too chaotic. So Vintage Caravan are definitely not everyone's cup of tea.. but if you are into psychedelic rock and lots of noise, then it's probably worth giving them a go. I actually find The Vintage Caravan quite original.. they have some really weird trippy parts to their songs and an aura about them when playing live. If there is one downside.. then I guess it's Oskar (lead ...

Nissan Note 1.2 DIG-S Acenta Premium 01/04/2016

Do I Dig the Not So Notable Note?

Nissan Note 1.2 DIG-S Acenta Premium With my photos of the end of the Balkan trip 2015 stuck on a broken mobile, I've decided to move my attentions to my most recent trip while the memories are still fresh! I shall be reviewing a number of places, accommodation and restaurants that my wife and I had the pleasure of visiting on a kid-free week's trip in Portugal last month.. but I'm starting off with the rented car that got us around the place. Background We rented a car from Europcar, who somewhat cheekily 'cancelled' our initial reservation just a day before we were due to turn up at the airport. Much to my disappointment we would not be testing out a Fiat 500 convertible. As we waited at Warsaw-Modlin for our flight to Portugal, it suddenly occurred to me that I had accidentally handed my father both my wife and I’s driving license with the car documents to the vehicle he was driving back to Warsaw. Much to my annoyance, he failed to pick up the phone until arriving back at home, a 40 minute drive away! Turns out he had the volume muted.. anyway a mad rush ensued with him heading back to the airport at record speeds and a whole host of helpful security staff trying to get the driving licenses through customs to the us and a whole host of unhelpful Ryanair staff trying to prevent it from happening. Thankfully, the good guys came out on top and we entered the plane well after the last call. It was something of a miracle and I’m very grateful to both my father and the unsuspecting bald security guy who really ...

Goodbye Repentance - Dead Lord 31/03/2016

Thin Lizzy's Fatter Swedish Brothers

Goodbye Repentance - Dead Lord Dead Lord Dead Lord are a Swedish band from Stockholm who due to their style of hard-rock and the similarity in looks between their lead singer and guitarist Hakim Krim and Phil Lynott have been dubbed as 'the reincarnation of Thin Lizzy'. Dead Lord are young and in their prime and even though they are borrowing heavily, I still feel listening and watching the band is a great experience. Hakim Krim has quite unique vocals, he was never intended to be the singer of the band but Dead Lord struggled to find a singer to work with and eventually they stuck with him. As it is, he's quite a charismatic frontman and though his singing sounds a little cumbersome, it really seems to suit the band's earthy sound. After my initial thought that Dead Lord were similar to them, I listened to Thin Lizzy and came to the conclusion that Dead Lord are quicker and the production seems better (which you'd hope for after a few decades of evolution!) but the songs are not quite as melodic or catchy. Hakim Krim - guitars and vocals Olle Hedenstrom - guitars Tobias Lindkvist - bass Adam Lindmark - drums My Dead Lord Experience Dead Lord recently supported The Vintage Caravan in Warsaw on a Sunday evening. The tickets were cheap and I felt it was a concert I couldn't miss out on. I pestered my friends to see if they'd like to join but no one seemed to be that interested. Their concert going seems to be flagging while despite being a balding father-of-two, my attendance rates seem to be ...

Are You Satisfied - Slaves 28/03/2016

With this album? Yes I am.

Are You Satisfied - Slaves Slaves Living outside of the UK, I have a slightly different exposure to up and coming British music. I don't get to see what's on the small club circuit and I'm less influenced by regular radio stations and charts and more influenced by Youtube. Recently, however I've been working from home and playing Radcliffe and Maconie on BBCiplayer. Behind the veneer of general lighthearted silliness, they play quite a variety of music and it's good if you find yourself obsessing a little bit over one genre and want to break out a bit. A couple of months back, the track 'Sockets' by Slaves was played and it immediately led me to check the band out. I'm always very suspicious these days when a band is labeled punk, more often than not when that's the case a wishy-washy American Green Day style ensues. Sorry if you like them. I find them really irritating. Slaves, to my surprise, do not sound like that but nor do they quite sound like the punk of old - U.K. Subs, Sex Pistols etc. There is a raw element to them which sounds like the 70s stuff but they also sound a bit like The Libertines or Blur but with a punkier and more electronic edge. Are You Satisfied? as you may well know.. is the band's debut album, entering the album charts in an impressive 8th position. The noisy duo come from Tunbridge Wells and have a talent for writing about every day events. Like their arch rivals, Sleaford Mods, they bring small-town UK to the forefront of music and write about life there. They are ...

Palicka Kruna, Palic 26/03/2016

A Plush Alternative to a Motorway Inn!

Palicka Kruna, Palic Background I apologise if it seems like I'm jumping around a bit on this Balkan trip. For some reason I started reviewing things in the middle, so now I'm fast-tracking from Albania to our return journey and the border with Serbia/Hungary. Following on from the previous review, where we were having lunch in Koplik, Albania.. the review order is Hotel Panorama - Kruje and then the Oaza Inn in Ohrid where we spent 8 nights for the second year in a row. We normally give ourselves a couple of days to get back to Warsaw, Poland and stop off in a few places along the way, this time round we were going to meet some friends in the south of Poland. The atmosphere is always a bit different because the way back is a bit rushed and my wife knows that her holidays are almost up (my days off are much more flexible fortunately!) Anyway, I'll stop waffling. We were looking for a place that didn't stray too far from the Belgrade - Budapest highway. I'd been to Novi Sad in the past and we'd stayed in Szeged which is just over the border in Hungary on the way down, the year before. This time round it was Subotica's turn for a visit. Palic Kruna was located in nearby Palic, a smaller town on a lake and close to the motorway Check In After a long day travelling across Macedonia and Serbia we reached our accommodation at about 8.30. I'd hoped to arrive slightly earlier. A man and woman had waited there to check us in but were clearly eager to get off. They register us and showed us to ...

Bar Restorant Sharani, Koplik 24/03/2016

A Very Sizeable Albanian Lunch

Bar Restorant Sharani, Koplik Background If you’ve been following my recent travel reviews, you will know that I’ve been reviewing a trip across the Balkans last summer (2015). During our drive from Hum (Bosnia) across Montenegro to Kruje (Albania), we intended to have lunch on the road at a cafe or restaurant. I wasn’t sure how long it would take us to cross the Montenegrin/Albanian border and wanted to have that out of the way, so my preferred choice was to have lunch somewhere once we’d crossed into Albania. As it happened, everything went to plan, we crossed both borders quite quickly and smoothly and rocked up in the town of Koplik around 1pm. Location and Decor I’d been in these neck of the woods back in 2004 and things have dramatically changed, what was once waste land that bordered a pot-holed road was now villas and restaurants with lavish gardens, the road was also newly paved. Albanians have always had an eye for the extravagant and like to enjoy life. Our modest Ford Focus estate looked a bit out of place amongst the BMWs and Corvettes on the road that day and as we drove along this road with several restaurants with fountains and expensive looking driveways, we were actually on the look out for one which looked affordable. If this was the UK or even Poland, we would probably not have entered any of them. Eventually we pulled into Bar Restaurant Sharani, which is on the right, towards the end of the road that bypasses the town of Koplik. It's on the main drag from the border to Shkoder, ...

Durmitor National Park, Zabljak 22/03/2016

A Spectacular Landscape in Montenegro's Interior

Durmitor National Park, Zabljak Montenegro is mostly known for its beautiful coastline, the town of Kotor, its once unofficial adoption of the Euro and its hardy football team that has given us a run for its money over the years, despite being something of an international minnow. What often fails to get mentioned is just how beautiful Montenegro’s interior is. The Durmitor National Park is a real remote gem and is best reached from Dubrovnik airport in Croatia, which is a 3 hour drive away. We visited it on our Balkan road trip last summer and it was definitely one of the highlights of the trip. Having crossed Bosnia the day before to the river-rafting centre in Bastasi (the one with the cute dog), we set out to do a bit of sightseeing. The weather was unpredictable and although it was warm, you could see that a thunderstorm was brewing. We’ve taken our kids kayaking in the past and 4km is their limit before they start fantasizing about chips and generally doing their best to capsize the kayak, we therefore decided to pass on the river-rafting and head over the border to Montenegro to the Durmitor National Park. I was a bit hesitant initially as I thought it might take a while to cross the border and wasn’t too sure how that wait would sit with the kids. One of the employees at Tri Vodenice assured me that it wouldn’t take very long and he was right. The Bosnian stretch to the border is fairly uneventful, a 5-6km twisty, dusty road that is either being rebuilt or recovering from a landslide.. once you ...

Rafting Camp Tara Tri Vodenice, Foca 19/03/2016

A step up from camping

Rafting Camp Tara Tri Vodenice, Foca Apologies for the time it has taken me to write the next instalment of my 2015 summer road trip to the Balkans, I've been away in Portugal and the photos were on a laptop back home. On top of that, I had it scrawled in an old notebook which seems to have gone AWOL, so I've had to rewrite it from scratch! This follows on from the 'Jajce' review, which was our stopping off point on a journey from the Una National Park to the other side of Bosnia, in the heart of Republika Srpska. Rafting Camp Tara Tri Vodenice is a set of houses and chalets in a field with a restaurant, it's just above a campsite and another rafting centre and it's in the small hamlet of Bastasi which is several kilometres from the Montenegrin border. Although it has a Foca address, it's a good 20km from the town along a dirt track that clings to the wall of a canyon.Foca is an hour and a half from Sarajevo (78km) on a slow, windy road that offers spectacular views. First Impressions We parked up in the field come car park where several other vehicles were parked and made our way to a large rustic looking wooden outdoor restaurant / reception. We'd made a booking on and the owner/manager sorted through some papers and decided which chalet to give us, it seems us though there may have been a double booking or something and he offered us a welcome drink while sorting the issue out. This was all done in a very friendly manner. Accommodation Although we had the occasional splurge on this trip, ...

Jajce, Bosnia Herzegovina 26/02/2016

Walking in a Water Wonderland!

Jajce, Bosnia Herzegovina I am glad to see that some Ciaoers enjoyed my last review on the Una National Park in Bosnia. The day after the Una jaunt, we drove across Bosnia to get to our destination south of Foca. As we were travelling with kids and expected the whole trip to take about 6 hours, we wanted to break the trip up with a stop for lunch and sightseeing. I knew we always end up leaving late in the morning, even if our intentions are otherwise. So the town of Jajce which was around 40% of the way seemed an ideal stopping off point. I had not really read up on places to see in Bosnia but was fairly open to anything other than Sarajevo and Mostar because I had already visited them before. Jajce seemed to be well-located and when I googled it, it looked beautiful, so Jajce it was! Where is Jajce? Jajce is centrally located in Bosnia and it was once the capital of the country. It's 147km north west of Sarajevo and 258km from Zagreb. We were travelling from Bihac, which is a 151km away and a beautiful drive over rolling hills. There's very little traffic and the road (the M5) is in good nick. I felt a true sense of freedom and could definitely see why it was a popular area with motorcyclists. I wish I had fitted a dash cam. buses in the Balkans connect most cities pretty well, so you'll have no problems reaching it by public transport. What is there to do in Jajce? Jajce itself is a tidy old city on a hill with an Ottoman feel to it but because it was scorching (it was August) and we were with ...

Una National Park, Bihac 22/02/2016

The spectacular Una National Park!

Una National Park, Bihac I love travelling and while I might not be roughing it quite as I did ten years ago, I love a good road trip. One of the places that I happened upon last year was the truly beautiful Una National Park in Bosnia. Something that always makes me feel great to be alive are waterfalls and this place has them in abundance.The rocks below give the water a lovely turquoise colour and we were in awe of them! Where is the Una National Park? The Una National Park is in the north west of Bosnia in a location that straddles the Croatian border. Getting there If unlike me you are not pretending you are on a Top Gear challenge then your best from the UK is flying into Zadar or Split in Croatia and renting a car. The Una National Park is about 3 hours away from both cities. Be sure the insurance covers Bosnia as we had to have a green card for our car. I found the Bosnian drivers to be courteous but the roads around the Una are partially dirt-track and the kind of place you could do damage to a not particularly robust hatchback. If you're travelling by public transport then head to Bihac and from there hike from one of the nearby villages on the edge of the park or go on one of the excursions that local tour operators offer. Our Experience We had the benefit of having our car and leaving when we wanted. We left our abode at about 11am, which was probably slightly on the late side. Our accommodation in Lohovo was right on the edge of the park but the side we wanted to visit was on the ...

The Square (DVD) 09/02/2016

A heavyweight political upheaval documentary

The Square (DVD) Somehow when this film came out in 2013 it did not get on my radar. Over the last 2 or 3 years my consumption of movies has decreased drastically and I'm making a conscientious effort to watch more of them at the moment. When I came across The Square, I knew I had to watch it. As an eighteen year old traveller I spent 3 months in Cairo working as an extra in the prolific but not particularly good Egyptian movie industry. During that time, I stayed at a hostel called the New Sun Hotel on one of the corners of Midan Tahrir. I knew the shopkeepers in the area, the street hawkers left me alone after two weeks and I grew to love the surrounding streets which had once seemed overwhelming. On the face of it, Egyptians may seem similar but it quickly became noticeable that there were great divisions in society. Like most religious books, the Quran is open to interpretation and I found that how an individual interpreted it was quite often questioned by their peers. Particularly in Cairo, there are a great many well-educated young folk, that could be found smoking waterpipes into the early hours of the morning. I would occasionally join them after having spent my day's wage on cheap whisky in the local den of iniquity known as 'The Stella Bar' in less salubrious company. The academic types were very serious and incredibly political, it was clear that they wanted change. I didn't have much to add to the conversation and generally felt more at home when listening to an Aussie retell ...

Rooms & Apartments Neron, Lohovo 05/02/2016

Beautiful Bosnian River Rooms

Rooms & Apartments Neron, Lohovo Background Our family road trips have become a staple of the summer. Each year we head south from my adopted home Warsaw, Poland. With a three-week trip due to get underway, I was eager to get going. Unfortunately my wife insists on leaving the place spotless, something I'm sure potential burglars find most heart-warming. This always delays our departure and as our first stop was Lohovo in Bosnia, I was keen to get off. We did not leave until 9pm and though the traffic was light and we made good progress, I had to pull over just south of Vienna at 3:10 in the morning. The lay-bys on Austrian motorways have showers, toilets and coffee machines and the kids had been mithering us to sleep in the car as they had had a taste for it the year before, so we decided before setting off that we'd sleep somewhere en-route. I was only intending on having two hours kip but woke up 5 hours later to find a deserted car park except a fresh-faced couple in a brand new Merc. After a coffee and some morning ablutions, we drove through Austria, Slovenia and Croatia, rocking up at the Bosnian border at 1.30am. The Bosnian border guard asked whether we would be rafting at Lohovo and I said 'swimming', he responded with a look of disapproval. I was later to find out, that's because the mountain water is fast-flowing and freezing. After crossing the Prnjavor border which is located close to Plitvice Lakes in Croatia, Lohovo is only a 40 min from drive. Once you get to Bihac, Neron is well ...
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